Being extracts from our No. I. Correspondence Circle, written in response to the Question, "What of the things I possess are mine?"
"By way of opening the question here's my own answer condensed into one word, 'Nothing —for if we cannot lay claim to our bodies as personal property, much less can we claim anything else. What the Ancients called the elements—Fire, Air, Water, Earth—what are these but God's treasures lent to us to hold and to use in common?"," Regarding Mr. B——'s theme for discussion, 'What of the things I possess are mine?' I must endorse Mr. G——'s reply, 'Nothing.' True we have nothing; not anything that is belongs to itself, but derives its being from the Divine Creator of all things. If we have health, wealth, or wisdom; if we are poor and decrepit; if we grovel in spiritual darkness, or soar in realms of Light; again, if we have talents; in brief if we possess little or much, the same is not our own, but we, with the things we hold in trust, belong to God...Nature cannot and does not exist of itself. Therefore, whether man admits it or not, he is responsible to a Higher Power than his own—the inward Spirit moves him to accomplish, and temporarily to enjoy, the rewards of his work."
"I should be disposed to answer Mr. B——'s question like the previous members, but I have been trying to grasp what thought was underlying the words in Mr. B——'s mind. What things does he refer to? The most precious are intangible, and whatever inward power there may be is given off in most cases unconsciously, and is felt by those with whom we come in contact. As for the material things, I have been reminded of a friend who gives away nearly all she gets, and spends very little on herself. I am bound to admire the spirit that actuates this, even though I do not feel able to carry out the principle. I daresay I have not enough faith to go to the length of the person referred to, and to trust that whatever happened I should not go unprovided for...I never think of lands, houses, or wealth of any kind as being God's, and also of these things being held in 'trust,'...but it seems to me that no real enjoyment can be derived from a selfishness that will not give to others...Personally it has not appeared to me right for one to spend so much money on things for one's own personal enjoyment while so many of my fellow-creatures were starving, but the question then comes as to where one should draw the line, and if one were logical I think it would lead to being without either food or clothing, because there would always be someone else to give to."
"The answer to the question must depend a on the standpoint you take in looking at it. Looking at the matter in one sense, a good many things are our own, if by our own we mean being able to do what we like with them...Jesus Christ made use of the expression, 'His own soul'...Then are not our wills our own? We are created with free wills. Are not our sins our own, and our virtues, our desires and our habits, our affections and other intangible things? Perhaps the question only refers to tangible things. If it does, I do not see that being responsible for the use of certain things makes them, therefore, not our own...I think, in the ordinary sense, I should call anything my own that I could do as l liked with."
"Here is my attempt at a solution: the things I possess for 'my very own,' as children say, are the things I have a power over. Some things possess us. The man who is a miser does not possess his money, but is possessed by it. We possess that which we hold in such a way that its loss would not break our hearts.
"Isn't it Ruskin who says somewhere that a beautiful landscape belongs not, necessarily, to the man who is supposed to own the acres, but to those who enjoy its beauty. That's one sort of possession. Then I think that perhaps Mr. B—— would mean, too, that we only possess our faculties, talents, and abilities when we have them under the control of our will to use them in the best manner. If we do not make proper use of them we cannot be held to possess them in a true sense."
"Years ago I heard of two misnamed 'Socialists' who called upon a French millionaire and requested him to share his wealth with them, as they had a right to a share of his money. He asked how many people there were in the world, and on receiving an answer, made a simple calculation, and gave them (I believe my memory serves me rightly) a farthing each—their share of his wealth. We must obey the spirit of the Law, not too much the letter."
"In reference to the point in question, I can only say that to my mind there is a common possession of life which we all share, and which is of far more importance to us than the material things of life. Think, for instance, of the thought-forces that constitute the human past. Just as our body is surrounded by an atmosphere which our lungs inhale, so is the soul surrounded by an atmosphere of thoughts...which our minds inhale...Whether we be rich or poor, it is always the common inheritance that really makes us rich. But when all is said the supreme inheritance and possession, if we could only realize it, is Love—God."
More from James Allen
James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.